Erdoğan tells opposition objecting to presidential system to know their place

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year for higher education at the Bestepe National Congress And Culture Center in Ankara on October 18, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed opposition parties that object to a constitutional reform package seeking to introduce a presidential system in Turkey, saying that they should know their place.

Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) threw punches and shoved one another as they crowded around the assembly podium on Wednesday night.

The AKP, backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is pushing through the legislation that Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The opposition CHP and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

Speaking at one of his regular meetings with muhtars (neighborhood heads) at the presidential palace on Thursday, Erdoğan said the opposition parties, namely the CHP, claim that the presidential system will create a one-man rule in the country, adding that it was the CHP which actually created a one-man regime in the past.

“In this country, there is no longer anybody who will believe such a deception. Everyone will know their place and respect the ballot box and the nation’s will,” Erdoğan said.

According to Erdoğan, the CHP and the HDP are trying to obstruct the work in Parliament, but no matter how hard they try, the constitutional reform will be put to a referendum sooner or later.

“Prolonging the [approval process of the constitutional reform] does not make anyone win anything. It may not last 15 days, but one month. I believe this [reform] will be approved by Parliament and brought before the nation,” he said.

Erdoğan called on the opposition parties to allow the reform to put to a referendum if they have any respect for the nation’s will.

The bill needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to referendum, expected in the spring. The AKP has 316 deputies eligible to vote and the MHP 39.

The reform will enable Erdoğan to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party and govern until 2029.

The plans foresee presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms.

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